The Best Winter Activities for Families
These action-packed winter adventures will help cure your family’s cabin fever in no time!
There are plenty of ways for families to enjoy winter while exploring the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region’s many lakes, parks, rinks, and hills primed for sledding and skiing. So grab your scarf and hat, bundle up the family and get ready for your best winter yet!
1. Shred Some Powder
Three Rivers Park District offers downhill skiing and snowboarding at Maple Grove’s Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area and Bloomington’s Hyland Hills Ski Area. Elm Creek has a lighted tubing hill as well. For bigger challenges, head to Burnsville’s Buck Hill, where Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn once trained, or hit Afton Alps, where 50 trails carve through nearly 300 acres overlooking the St. Croix River Valley in Hastings. All these sites offer lessons for newbies, as well as chalets with steaming drinks for family members who prefer watching over whooshing.
2. Celebrate All Things Winter
From Jan. 25 through Feb. 4, you can enjoy 10 days of frosty outdoor events, music and performances, public art, and dining experiences during the Great Northern Festival in Minneapolis. Check out the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, a strictly amateur, just-for-fun tournament that brings out the best pond hockey players all of over the country to compete in our state’s favorite sport. Heat up in the Sauna Village at Malcolm Yards, watch a cross country ski festival or head to the Luminary Loppet, where you can walk, snowshoe, or ski on the candlelit trail winding across Lake of the Isles. Click here for the most up-to-date information on things to do during the Great Northern Festival.
The COOP FIS Cross-Country World Cup is coming to Minneapolis in February 2024! The world’s best athletes in cross country skiing will race in the first world cup race to be held on U.S. soil in twenty years and it will be held at Theodore Wirth Park.
3. Explore a Winter Wonderland
Round up your crew and get outside to experience winter’s unique beauty together — from lacy patterns in the ice to the eerie sounds of freezing rivers. Fort Snelling State Park — which hugs a lake and the Minnesota River as it meets the Mississippi — offers wintry activities such as snowshoe clinics, winter birding, and ice fishing. Some go-to hiking spots include the Mississippi River Greenway with trailheads like Simon’s Ravine Trailhead in South Saint Paul, Swing Bridge Trailhead in Inver Grove Heights, and Lower Spring Lake Trailhead by Spring Lake Park Reserve. And make sure to visit Theodore Wirth Regional Park for a host of winter activities, including cross-country skiing, ice fishing, tubing, sledding and more. Or take a stroll over the historic Stone Arch Bridge, made from local granite and limestone.
4. Lace Up Your Skates
Enjoy the 10 acres of skating along the connected ponds of Edina’s Centennial Lakes Park; Maple Grove’s Central Park Ice Skating Loop, which meanders for 810 feet; and Roseville’s Guidant John Rose MN Oval, North America’s largest outdoor refrigerated skating facility.
5. Keep an Eye to the Sky
Looking for a short hike and maybe a little bird watching? Head to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Bloomington. Not far from Mall of America, this tucked-away spot offers workshops on bird behavior and guided birding expeditions that help families spot swans, geese, eagles and wintering songbirds that gather in the trees and along the water near Bloomington’s Bass Ponds or Shakopee’s Wilkie Unit trailheads. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera!
6. Marvel at Ice Formations
Head to Minnehaha Regional Park to marvel at the icicled beauty of a 53-foot waterfall frozen for the season. As one of the most popular parks in Minneapolis, you and your family will also find a dog park, disc-golf holes and plenty of places to sled.
7. Tap Into Your Wild Side
Amble through Saint Paul’s Como Park Zoo & Conservatory — home to the Polar Bear Odyssey, an Arctic fox, reindeer, wolves, gorillas, and more — as you weave through indoor and outdoor exhibits. The popular Conservatory is filled with palm trees, spice bushes and seasonal flowers.
Apple Valley’s 485-acre Minnesota Zoo takes visitors on outdoor trails past snow monkeys and bison, through an aquarium with penguins and monk seals, and into a multi-level tropical habitat with exotic birds, gibbons, tree kangaroos, and nocturnal creatures.